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Unemployment rates in the Unites States have skyrocketed, since the Covid-19 outbreak.

By Bansri Patel

Bansri Patel is an associate attorney at ILOHB who works both in the Academics Department and Business Department. Prior to joining ILOHB, Bansri worked in big law, where she built her immigration knowledge base. She completed her bachelor’s degree at University of California, Davis and received her Juris Doctorate degree from Syracuse University College of Law.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the unemployment rate in the United States has skyrocketed to 13.0%. As history has demonstrated time and time again, it is within human nature to find a scapegoat and blame the scapegoat for their misfortunes. A scapegoat tends to be the most vulnerable group. Here, many US citizens, who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and who are unable to get new jobs, blame the immigrant population for taking their jobs. The unseen reality is that immigrants are not taking US jobs, rather the invisible enemy, COVID-19, is. 

There are differing reasons being given for why the working immigration population is to blame for the increase in unemployment in the United States and for why the immigrant population is to blame for the lack of jobs available to US citizens. While it is true that there is not an abundance of jobs currently available in the United States, it is untrue that immigrants are to blame. More specifically, the immigrant population that Trump and his administration have been targeting play a pivotal role in helping keep the US economy running and creating jobs, despite these trying times. 

Studies show that Immigrants are good for the US economy for a host of reasons. Some being: 

  • Immigrants and nonimmigrants tend to be educated in STEM fields, which are extremely important for the ever-growing tech industry. It is these same STEM students who go on to becoming researchers, postdoctoral, or people of extraordinary ability, and thus rise to the top of their given field. They do not come to the US seeking to steal US jobs. Rather, they further contribute to the US through their groundbreaking research and high level of skill. Their level of skill and knowledge is measured by their ability to obtain an EB2 National Interest Waiver, EB1A an EB1B. These are all extremely hard visa types to obtain and thus those people who obtain these visa types are at the top of the echelon in their field; 
  • Both immigrants and nonimmigrants who come here on investor visas, such as an E-2  or EB-5 not only help stimulate the economy through investing their personal funds into a business in the United States, but they also help create new jobs in the United States, which leads to another issue. People who complain that the immigration population in the United States is stealing jobs fail to see all of the jobs that those same immigrants create through helping big tech giants grow and by also creating new businesses in the United States; and
  • Both immigrants and nonimmigrants contribute more than $90 billion in taxes every year. It is clear that without this significant contribution, the US economy would suffer gravely which would in turn harm employment rates in the United States even more. 

Another faulty assumption is that US jobs are being taken by foreign workers due to foreign workers working for a fraction of what US citizens work for. While it is true that some foreign workers make less than US citizens, this statement cannot be applied broadly across all foreign workers and cannot be used to show that foreign workers steal jobs from US citizens. On June 6, 2017, the Department of Labor made a public announcement that they were going to implement new regulations to ensure visa fraud and abuse were not taking place in the work world.  

The Department of Labor now heavily monitors the following areas to ensure the work force remains fair for all parties involved:

  • The Wage and Hour Division is using all its tools in conducting civil investigations to enforce labor protections provided by the visa programs.
  • The Employment and Training Administration is developing proposed changes to the Labor Condition Application, and for the division to review their investigatory forms, to better identify systematic violations and potential fraud, and provide greater transparency for agency personnel, U.S. workers, and the general public.
  • The Wage and Hour Division, ETA, and the Office of the Solicitor are coordinating the administration and enforcement activities of the visa programs and making referrals of criminal fraud to the Office of the Inspector General. 
  • The Department is establishing a working group made up of senior leadership from ETA, the Wage and Hour Division, and Solicitor’s office to supervise this effort and coordinate enforcement to avoid duplication of efforts and maximize the efficiency of the department’s activities regarding the visa programs. 

The above are ways in which the Department of Labor is ensuring visa fraud is not taking place in the workplace, and therefore US workers are not being overlooked for foreign workers for jobs based on the claim that foreign workers get paid less. The above illustrates how the Department of Labor regulates pay to ensure that all parties are paid at a certain level and if anyone is paid above a predetermined wage, it is due to the employer wishing to pay a worker more, not due to the employer trying to target a cheaper labor force. 

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, many people have faced new hardships. One hardship that has struck many people is the loss of their job. In the United States, with a skyrocketing unemployment rate, many US citizens are using both immigrant and nonimmigrant workers as a scapegoat for their vocational misfortunes. Many are saying that the foreign workforce is to blame for the deficit of jobs, but as shown above, foreign workers not only contribute heavily to the US economy, but they also create new jobs. Furthermore, foreign workers do not receive job offers due to a lower pay. As seen above, the Department of Labor heavily regulates pay and work visas in order to prevent visa fraud and to also protect the American workforce through promoting hiring Americans. 

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